Editorial: FMF Shouldn’t Appeal FIFA Fines

el triThe Mexican Football Federation (FMF) has been fined by FIFA five times for homophobic chants in 2018 World Cup qualifying matches and has been warned about them an equal number of times.

In response, Mexico launched two anti-discrimination campaigns, the general “Abrazados por el Fútbol” (Embraced by Soccer) campaign, and the more specific “Ya Párale” (Stop It Now) campaign, which is aimed specifically at ending the now infamous “ehh, p***” chant.

Nevertheless, Guillermo Cantú, the Secretary General of FMF, revealed that the fines have not been paid. The federation is instead appealing them.

“We will appeal the sanction because we are not in agreement with the connotation that FIFA has given the chant,” he stated in a press release.

The first appeal went to FIFA. It is now proceeding to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

In an interview with ESPN Digitial, Cantú elaborated on the thought process behind the appeal, saying that “The FIFA Disciplinary Committee, at the time it received the information about the chant, has taken the translation of the word from the chant in English; if you see the translation, it has only one connotation, [but] in Mexico, the word in its masculine form has different [connotations]. It even has some positive ones, and that is precisely our argument.”

To claim that FMF shouldn’t be fined because the word “even has some positive [connotations]” is clearly absurd. Whether the word is homophobic or simply – as often claimed – a more general insult, it is hardly being shouted in a positive manner.

There is also the argument that, regardless of intention, using a word that is defined by the Real Academia Española as “un hombre que tiene concúbito con persona de su sexo”, or a man who has sex with other men, as an all-purpose swear word, is problematic in and of itself. (In the same way that many people object to the English usage of “gay” to mean “stupid”, as in “That’s gay”).

Furthermore, the debate as to whether or not it is homophobic or simply an all-purpose obscenity is not limited to an “English vs Spanish” point of view. CONAPRED, Mexico’s National Council to Prevent Discrimination, unequivocally denounces the word as a gay slur. And regardless of the intended connotation in the specific context of the soccer stadium, the word in question is often used in other contexts as a slur.

Words can, of course, be used in different ways in different contexts. However, using a potentially or often offensive word in a way that is intended to be harmless doesn’t mean it will be interpreted that way. Regardless of intent, thousands of people shouting that word in unison creates an unwelcoming if not outright unsafe-feeling environment for LGBTQ people at games.

There is no reasonable justification for continuing to shout it. If it’s not being used as a slur, then why not substitute another all-purpose insult, one without these more troubling connotations? Why continue to alienate LGBTQ supporters and stir up international controversy?

Pay the fines.

Stop the chant.

Be better than this.

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